Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

This marks the 10th year of my YouTube channel. You can watch more than 350 videos here, but as it is the season to reflect on the past year, here is some of what I saw, through my unabashedly lefty lens, in 2019.

Winnipeg Central American Migrant Caravan Benefit Concert
Jan. 4, 2019: The Benefit Concert for the Central American Caravan was held on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 in Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple, with proceeds going to the Mennonite Central Committee (Canada) to support its work with Central American migrants.

Trudeau & Trump: #HandsOffVenezuela
Jan. 26, 2019: Members of the Venezuela Peace Committee and Peace Alliance Winnipeg rallied in Winnipeg outside the building the houses the United States Consulate to protest the actions taken by the Canadian and US governments to destabilize Venezuela.

Winnipeggers say: Hands Off Venezuela!
Feb. 23, 2019: The Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee joined in an international day of action in solidarity with the people of Venezuela and the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

How you can support Venezuela
Feb. 23, 2019: Speaking at a Venezuela solidarity rally in Winnipeg, Alan Freeman, of the Venezuela Peace Committee, explains what you can do to support the people of Venezuela and their democratically elected government against foreign intervention.

Winnipeg Labour Solidarity with Palestinian Workers
March 16, 2019: Palestinian postal worker Imad Temiza, as well as CUPW and CUPE members who have recently returned from delegations to Israel and Palestine, discuss the challenges faced by Palestinian workers.

André Vltchek: NATO, Canada & Western Imperialism
April 3, 2019: The North Atlantic Treaty was signed on April 4, 1949, giving rise to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO. To mark the occasion, a public forum on the role of NATO was held featuring André Vltchek, a Russian-born American political analyst, journalist, and a filmmaker.

Peace Alliance Winnipeg Annual Meeting Report
Peace Alliance Winnipeg, of which I am a member, held its annual general meeting on April 13, 2019. PAW’s chair, Glenn Michalchuk, reports on some of the highlights and challenges of the past year.

Radhika Desai – How We Work for Peace in Venezuela
April 24, 2019: Radhika Desai wraps up a Town Hall forum in Winnipeg entitled “The West’s War on Venezuela” with an explanation of how and why the Venezuela Peace Committee contributes to peace in Venezuela.

Dimitri Lascaris – Manufacturing Consent to a Coup against Venezuela
April 24, 2019: Journalist Dimitri Lascaris speaks to a Town Hall forum in Winnipeg entitled “The West’s War on Venezuela” about the myths perpetrated by western governments and media to support a coup against Venezuela’s democratically elected Maduro government.

The West’s War on Venezuela – Why Canada is Wrong
April 24, 2019: Canada’s decision to seek regime change in Venezuela along with the US and other Western countries, the anti-Maduro bias prevailing in the mainstream Canadian and western news media and the potential for the confrontation between western powers and others, such as Russia and China, are the key issues that were discussed in a public forum at the University of Winnipeg.

Henry Heller’s Marxist History of Capitalism
April 29, 2019: Henry Heller shows that capitalism has always been a double-edged sword, on one hand advancing humanity, and on the other harming traditional societies and our natural environment. He makes the case that capitalism has now become self-destructive, and that our current era of neoliberalism may trigger a transition to a democratic and ecologically aware form of socialism.

Dennis Lewycky: Magnificent Fight – The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike
May 2, 2019: On the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike, Dennis Lewycky launches his new book on the topic, appropriately titled “Magnificent Fight: The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.”

Barbara Perry: Assessing the Far Right in Canada
March 14, 2019: Is Canada’s extreme right growing? How dangerous are they and where do they live? These and other questions are discussed by Dr. Barbara Perry, who has researched and written extensively on right-wing extremism.

1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike
May 12, 2019: One century on, the Winnipeg General Strike remains one of the most significant events in Canadian history. A new book, 1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike, marks the centenary of this epic struggle.

The Winnipeg Labour Choir celebrates the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike
May 15, 2019: One hundred years ago, workers in Winnipeg’s building and metal trades were negotiating with their employers for the right to collective bargaining, better wages and improved working conditions. Talks were going nowhere so, on May 15, 1919, the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council called for a general strike. Within hours, 30,000 men and women, many of whom were not union members, left their jobs. Winnipeg was shut down and the shock waves were felt across the country.

38th Winnipeg Walk for Peace
June 22, 2019: Peace Alliance Winnipeg and the Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter held the 38th annual Winnipeg Walk for Peace. The purpose of this year’s event is to call upon the Canadian government to promote peace and international cooperation and development, objectives that are sorely lacking in Canada’s foreign policy.

The threat of the “New Antisemitism”
June 22, 2019: Speaking at the Winnipeg Walk for Peace, Harold Shuster, of Independent Jewish Voices, explains the threat posed by a new definition of antisemitism.

Women Strike Part 1: The Nawrockis in Concert
June 13, 2019: ‘The Nawrockis’ is Norman Nawrocki’s exciting new violin and ukulele duo with his sister Vivian. They play traditional, upbeat Ukrainian folk music. She’s a Vancouver-based singer and musician. They provide the warm up act that proceeded Norman’s play (see next item.)

Women Strike Part 2: The Play
Women Strike! 1919-2019 – The Winnipeg General Strike was recorded at the Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg, Canada on June 13, 2019. Written and directed by Norman Nawrocki, the play features Karam Daoud, Lorraine James and Marri-Lou Paterson. It was staged as a part of the Winnipeg Labour Council’s 2019 Mayworks Program.

Elizabeth May: Canada’s most important election ever
Aug. 15, 2019: Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May was in Winnipeg to lend support to Greens contesting the Sept. 10th provincial general election. Speaking at WestEnd Commons in Winnipeg with Wolsley candidate David Nickarz, May described the upcoming federal election as the most important one in Canada’s history because it will be the one that decides whether Canadians will be able to act in time to meet our climate targets.

Inclusive Democracy & Proportional Representation
Aug. 27, 2019: Fair Vote Manitoba held a forum on electoral and other democratic reforms at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg featuring candidates from most of the parties running in the Manitoba provincial election.

ELECTION 2019: Manitoba Leaders Debate on the Environment
Winnipeg, Sept. 5, 2019: The global climate crisis has occupied centre stage in the Manitoba provincial election. Leaders from three political parties showcased their perspectives on climate change and the environment in a debate organized by several environmental organizations.

Winnipeg Lanterns for Peace 2019
Aug. 6, 2019: Winnipeggers held their annual Lanterns for Peace Ceremony to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945. Their aim is to help keep the memory of these attacks alive so that current generations understand we must never allow nuclear weapons to be used again.

Maria Páez Victor: The Case for Venezuela
Winnipeg, July 20, 2019: Speaking at the Class, State and Nation conference, Dr. Maria Páez Victor describes the criminal nature of the United States-led campaign to undermine the government of Venezuela.

Arnold August on the US Canadian Attack on Cuba and Venezuela
October 3, 2019: There is no doubt that Canadian foreign policy has taken a hard turn to the right, especially with regard to Latin America. Arnold August provides the context and details the US led attacks on Cuba and Venezuela that Canada has been supporting so vigorously.

Bryan Palmer: The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike heard around the world
The 1919 Winnipeg General Strike was followed with great interest by people around the world, says Dr. Bryan Palmer, Professor Emeritus at Trent University. Professor Palmer was speaking at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy entitled Class, State and Nation in the 21st Century, held in Winnipeg July 19-21, 2019.

Winnipeg Chile Solidarity
Oct. 24, 2019 — People in Chile are dying at the hands of their repressive government. People in Winnipeg showed some solidarity this morning at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Michael Hudson: Resisting Empire
Renowned economist Dr. Michael Hudson spoke at the 14th Forum of the World Association for Political Economy, held in Winnipeg in July 19-21, 2019. The conference was entitled Class, State and Nation in the 21st Century.

Vanessa Beeley: Canada’s Dirty War Against Syria
December 13, 2019: Two successive governments of Canada, those of Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, have been an integral part of the US coalition for regime change and economic sanctions against Syria since 2011. Independent journalist Vanessa Beeley visited 7 Canadian cities in December to deliver a talk entitled “Canada’s Dirty War Against Syria: the White Helmets and the Regime-Change-War Billionaires.”

 

 

 

Once again, the results of yesterday’s federal election demonstrate the unrepresentative nature of our Parliament. It also illustrates why the Liberals, who came second in votes but first in seats, were so willing to backtrack on their 2015 promise to bring in a system of proportional representation. The chart further illustrates how ludicrously unfair the first-past-the-post system is when the Bloc Quebecois, with 7.7 per cent of the popular vote can elect 32 MPs while the Greens, with 6.5 per cent, seated only three.

You can get all the numbers at Elections Canada. After that, you may want to check out Fair Vote Canada.

In two recent announcements the Manitoba Government has revealed how it intends to regulate cannabis when it is legalized in July 2018. In short, the province will source and regulate it and the private sector will retail it. So far, so good. Unhappily, Manitobans will continue to be criminalized if they grow their own for non-medical purposes and, in a bid to protect children that is doomed to fail, the province will prohibit citizens who are otherwise considered adults (able to vote, join the military and consume alcohol) from partaking until their nineteenth birthday. You can read the details here and here.

Since quitting drinking around the turn of the century I have come to appreciate the ability to think clearly. I am amazed that Younger Me was so eager and willing to abandon clear-headedness so easily and frequently. For various reasons, I’ve come to prefer the joy of experiencing the world as it is to stumbling through drug-induced alternate realities. It logically follows, then, that I am not a consumer of cannabis. I have no skin in this game. Still, I have to wonder what Brian Pallister was smoking in his Costa Rican retreat when he came up with this half-baked plan.

Winnipeg, Dec. 5, 2017: Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson announces how the province will regulate cannabis consumption in 2018.

In announcing Manitoba’s plans, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said “This new legislation sets out the regulatory framework, enforcement structures and compliance provisions that will help keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth and away from the black market.”

At best, this statement suggests she is hopelessly naive. If current enforcement efforts have not kept pot out of the hands of kids, it is difficult to see how this government’s plans will address this. Canadians love their dope. Despite government expenditures of $500 million per year on cops and courts, more than two million Canadians consume an estimated 770,000 kg annually. On average, they begin to toke up at age 15 and a quarter-million kids aged 12 to 17 smoke it daily.

Along with setting the age of consumption at 19, Manitoba’s legislation will restrict where retail outlets can operate (away from schools and parks, for example) and allow municipalities to outlaw retail cannabis sales by holding a plebiscite.

There is no plan protect children. The government knows it as should anyone who reviews the colossal failure otherwise known as the War on Drugs.

However, undeterred by the lessons of history our provincial government is determined to keep the costs of law enforcement unnecessarily high by prohibiting home cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes. Even though citizens may lawfully make beer and wine at home, they will not be able to grow their own weed without the fear of cops kicking in their doors.

Of all of the measures in this bill, this is the least defensible. It serves only to protect the government’s monopoly, which is not a sufficient justification in my view.

As Moses would have said to Pharaoh under these circumstances, “Let my people grow!”


Additional Reading

Have you ever noticed that the people who are the most vociferous proponents of radical social change are often the least competent in providing for the everyday needs of the people around them? By everyday needs, I’m talking about the goods and services that glue a society together, like building a house, growing food, fixing a car, or delivering babies. While they are usually well read and hip to the latest political trends, if left to themselves, most social justice activists would starve to death in a few short weeks.

I call this condition “revolutionary fecklessness” and (regretfully) consider myself to be an older member of this hapless social layer. We are the products of the middle class that grew out of the post World War Two economic boom and which has persisted until relatively recently. This economic growth enabled the expansion of post-secondary education which in turn allowed growing numbers of young radicals to leave the working class and join the ranks of corporate and government bureaucracies. In doing so they never properly developed the practical skills that society needs to function.

Now Marxists argue that unless one owns the means of production one is a worker. In that sense, educated bureaucrats are members of the working class. However, I think one can argue that there are workers and there are WORKERS. Some do the work and produce the goods and services that people need (WORKERS) and others move paper and pixels around in nonproductive endeavors (workers). The ranks of the revolutionary feckless are swollen by the latter.

Now in the process of becoming nonproductive workers we lost more than practical skills. We lost a sense of ourselves as workers and our connection to that social class. In a very real sense, we failed to develop necessary social skills.

This could explain why most radicals are incapable of talking with, much less leading the rest of the working class; so much of radical politics resembles the practices of bizarre cults whose rituals and vocabularies guarantee their irrelevance to the vast majority of working people. I’m often left with the impression that we don’t even understand each other. How, therefore, can we expect to inspire and motivate others outside of our little groups?

In one sense, none of this matters because revolutions are never caused by revolutionaries, however dedicated and fierce. Nonetheless, if you want to be taken seriously when the revolutionary shit hits the fan of history, learn to be useful. Regardless of your professional or academic choices, develop skills and attitudes that enable you to meet the concrete needs of people in your community. If you do, when the opportunity arises, your fellow workers will be more likely to listen to you. And perhaps, what you have to say will be more useful as well.

In his new job as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Jack Layton has pledged to “fix Ottawa.” I’ve taken this to mean he will lead by example in hope of teaching the children to play nicely. I wish him luck.

The problem with our democracy goes far beyond Stephen Harper’s well documented contempt for Parliament. Fundamentally, our democracy is undemocratic. The “first-past-the-post” system of electing MPs always means that the wishes of great numbers of Canadians are unrepresented in Parliament. In a multiparty system, few MPs garner a majority of votes. But even in a 2-way race, substantial numbers of citizens find themselves unrepresented after the votes are counted.

This is not news. But it bears repeating – until we dump the FPTP system and adopt some form of proportional representation (PR) method of electing MPs – we are doomed to unrepresentative Parliaments and endless repeats of dubious strategic voting exercises.

What would a representative Parliament look like? Here’s what we have now.

Party Elected % of Seats % of Vote
Conservative 167 54.2 39.6
NDP 102 33.1 30.6
Liberal 34 11 18.9
BQ 4 1.3 6
Green 1 0.3 3.9

Source: http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html. (Note, percentages to not add up to 100, probably because of some rounding in the original data. But you get the idea.)

The top two parties clearly have more MPs than their share of the popular vote would justify. It looks like this.

Now, look what happens when MPs are elected in proportion to their party’s share of the popular vote.

Party FPTP PR
Conservative 167 122
NDP 102 95
Liberal 34 59
BQ 4 19
Green 1 13

(Note: the above chart needed some rounding to make it work – but it’s close enough.) It would look like this.

As things stand now, Stephen Harper has an undeserved majority in Parliament – one he will use to impose his minority, right wing agenda on the majority of Canadians who voted for other visions of Canada. Under the current rules, he can do what he wants without reference to the other parties.

In a PR Parliament, Harper would be compelled to negotiate with some or all of the other parties in order to keep his job. Parliament would be representative and this, I believe, is a necessary first step in fixing our broken democracy.

Electoral reform must become a priority for all who call themselves democrats. In the past, both the Greens and the NDP have said they favour PR. We have to encourage them to make it their priority. At the same time, if we leave it up to any political party, we will be disappointed. It’s up to us to make it happen.

caseyIn the wake of pet food recalls and animal deaths, NDP MP Olivia Chow has called for government regulation to ensure the quality and safety of what we serve our furry companions. Well and good. Food products, whether for animals or for humans, should be nutritious and safe. So, by all means, sign her petition if you believe that the federal government is the vehicle for ensuring that safety.

But what are you feeding Fluffy and Fido today? In Olivia Chow’s YouTube video, she says we don’t know what is in pet food because it is unregulated. In that sense, she is correct. We don’t know because there is no mechanism for holding pet food manufacturers accountable. But in another sense she is wrong, wrong, wrong! There is an abundance of information on pet food and believe me, it ain’t appetizing.

If you feed your little friend commercial pet food, there is a good chance it includes the “4-Ds” — dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals. Add to that the bacteria, mycotoxins, chemical residues, GMOs and carcinogenic acrylamides that result from the food sources and manufacturing methods of the pet food industry. Check out the Animal Protection Institute for a comprehensive article on what is in pet food. Yuck!

If you continue to feed this garbage to your pets, and you can still look them in the eye at dinner time, get psychological counselling, fast.

But if you want to do something about it today, learn how to make your own pet food. If you can boil water, you’re on the track.

The Animal Protection Institute has some good recipes, and hey — if you’ve gotten out of the habit of cooking real food for yourself, you might even want to break bread with Fido and Fluffy, ’cause these recipes are pretty appetizing by comparison with the crap that most Canadians bring home from the store for their families.